There was a (very) minor kerfuffle in recent weeks over a piece from Ted Gioia – whose “Music: A Subversive History” is high up on my to-read list (so many books!) – about how little people are listening to new music these days. Other than the issues this raises for the music industry – who are just the next generation of artist-fucking-over sharks who’ve always been drawn to the business – and current artists struggling to find their place in this messed-up economy, I don’t see this as a giant concern. As he notes towards the end, art is a bottom-up process, not top-down, and, inevitably, good work does find its place. Hopefully, that comes soon enough for the artist to profit from it, as opposed to a sort of “A Confederacy of Dunces” situation (though at least the writer’s beloved mother made out well in that particular mess).
One thing he skirts around is that a lot of this older music that is being played is, in fact, new music to a lot of these listeners. I started my Pazz & Jop project because I was woefully uninformed about much of the best music of my lifetime. I have a 30+-year head start on the people of my daughters’ generation, so for those among them who love music, there is an insane amount of ground to make up. While I am completely on board with newer artists becoming as insanely wealthy as some of their predecessors (please do your part to help Mitski get there – I can’t do this on my own), putting another penny in the pockets of Sting or Bruce because you just discovered “Every Breath You Take” or “The River” and can’t get enough of them is a magnificent thing that should absolutely be encouraged. “New” music isn’t determined by the calendar – it’s the moment in time when you encounter it that matters.
Anyway, this is all a preamble to a new list of recommendations. When putting together my 2021 favourites list, I realized I need to do a better job of tracking the things I like going forward in case I’m still writing this blog in January 2023. (I hope to be.) So this is the first of a monthly listing of things I listened to and liked over the previous 30 days or so. (It’s a long list, but maybe only 15 or 20%, at most, of the things I’ve listened to.) It won’t include anything from Pazz & Jop or any other focussed pieces that I might post. They’ll generally be without comment, though I reserve the right (see below, for example) to change that whenever the mood strikes me. Hopefully, you’ll find some things here that will reward the effort that you put in to listen to them. And it doesn’t really require that much effort – the Skip button will quickly take you to the next song waiting to be discovered.
- The Zombies – Begin Here (1965) (I was floored by how much I loved this. Never really gave them any attention before, and will definitely be trying to make up for it going forward.)
- Roberta Flack – First Take (1969)
- Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul (1969) (This warmed me immensely as I shovelled our cars out after this winter’s biggest storm (so far).)
- Al Green – Al Green Gets Next to You (1971)
- Dire Straits – Making Movies (1980)
- Marshall Crenshaw – Marshall Crenshaw (1982)
- R.E.M. – Reckoning (1984)
- Sad13 – Slugger (2016)
- Sarah Shook & the Disarmers – Years (2018) (From my PopNotes Twitter account (liked by the artist!): “Is punk country a thing? Alt bluegrass? Country blues? There’s so much happening here that labels are pointless.”) New album coming in nine days!
- Indigo De Souza – Any Shape You Take (2021)
- Spelling – The Turning Wheel (2021) (Definitely a Kate Bush vibe here if you’re into that (I sort of am, obviously).)
- Faye Webster – I Know I’m Funny haha (2021) (Twitter again: “A gentle, woozy gem of a record, like the feeling of drifting off to sleep after one too many margaritas on a sticky summer evening.”)
- Silk Sonic – An Evening with Silk Sonic (2021) (I was pretty much done with Bruno Mars – everything was starting to sound too much alike – so I hope this collaboration reinvigorates him, because I loved his first two albums.)
- Angèle – Nonante-Cinq (2021) (This was great to work out to.)
- Magdalena Bay – Mercurial World (2021) (Glittery female-sung indie pop – sort of my kyptonite.)
- Cassandra Jenkins – An Overview on Phenomenal Nature (2021)
- Sturgill Simpson – The Ballad of Dood & Juanita (2021)
- Dot Allison – Heart-Shaped Scars (2021)
- Courtney Barnett – Things Take Time, Take Time (2021)
- The Weeknd – Dawn FM (2022)
- Elvis Costello & the Imposters – The Boy Named If (2022) (His most instantly enjoyable record in over 20 years.)